Posts Tagged ‘Off Switch’

Go Do Dog Stuff: Seven Simple Ideas for Effective Dismissal

Disc Dog Border Collie Lying Down

What Is Dismissal?

Dismissal is the opposite of Attention. Practically speaking, it means that the handler is not available at this time. It does not mean “we’re done working”. It does not mean “you may stop doing that”. It means I (the handler) am not available now and you may amuse yourself for a while.

We call this “Go Do Dog Stuff,” at Pawsitive Vybe, that’s the actual cue. Sure it sounds corny and it’s a little silly, but it’s super playful and fun. It’s really clever when you say,”Go Do Dog Stuff,” and your dog goes and pees on a tree or chews on a bone or something – it makes people smile.

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Shaping the Spot Behavior with Dismissal

Click on the image above for the video.

What Is DOC?

  • Dismiss – You say, “Go Do Dog Stuff…”
  • Observe – Watch Your Dog
  • Capture – Mark and Reinforce Desirable Behavior

DOC is our Environmental Management Protocol. It is designed to help handler’s learn to passively handle their dogs. You dismiss the dog and then let them hang out there on their own in the environment and shape behaviors you would like your dogs to use when they’re on their own. Spot is one of those default behaviors that you’re looking to shape for Environmental Management.

DOC for Action

Once you have Desire for the Spot or Pedestal and/or Desire for Duration, you can dismiss the dog, observe them casually and wait for them to go hit the spot.  Mark and reinforce it when it happens. If you’ve done our job in building the spot so far, the dog should be waiting there right now…

You add value to Action, by marking and reinforcing as they get to the spot, or marking and reinforcing the sit or down – Shaping the Spot.

DOC for Duration

You can also add value to duration by walking over and paying the dog for lying down patiently. Don’t use a marker and move easily. You can mark eye contact during the down in order to ensure that the dog gets feedback and is likely to continue lying down while you approach, but you are looking to not mark at all so you can reinforce the state of being down. Redlight/Greenlight could also be used in case of a break in Duration.

But you’re looking to reinforce the state of being motionless, an absence of action. Repetitive action works against Duration. You don’t want to be doing a bunch of it. If your dog is not staying well as you approach to deliver reinforcement, you will want to get better at Releasing your dog.

When you click you mark action. In duration, you are looking for an absence of Action. Don’t mark and let your cookies speak for themselves – Reinforce the State of Being.

DOC for Generalization

When you dismiss the dog, you are free to do whatever it is you please in order to generalize your position (and activity). You can Dismiss the dog and sit down. Observe your dog and mark and capture the moment they hit the spot if you’re looking for Action, or you can quietly capture them lying down nicely and drop a cookie on them if you want Duration. Dismiss the dog while doing dishes? Be ready to capture the Spot. You can dismiss while holding Frisbees. Wait for the spot and mark it…

We hope you get the hang of the DOC handling concept, not just for Spot training either. It’s really elegant and is extremely flexible. Feel free to ask questions about DOC below.

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Manufacturing the Approach

Tossing Your Cookies

When asking the dog off of the spot, the Release, we toss cookies. Tossing the cookie forces the dog to leave the Spot and sets up another approach.

The concepts of On and Off can be taught quite quickly by marking the off and tossing a cookie. The dog leaves the Spot to go grab the cookie and then immediately returns to earn more cookies for doing the Spot again.

We can get the dog to move away from the handler, towards the handler, to the left or to the right with tossed cookies.

Dismiss and Capture

Once we’ve added value to the Spot and have started to generalize the approach to the Spot, we can then Dismiss and Capture the Spot behavior. What we do here is to get the dog all excited about the spot and working in general and then we dismiss them “Go do dog stuff…” and go and chill out. We then ignore them until they happen to go hit the spot.

We observe the dog out of the corner of our eye and when the dog happens to hit the spot, we mark and reward for position.

We may need to reduce our criteria back down to the threshold or foot targeting, capturing the action for a few repetitions, as the entire Spot behavior might be a bit too much to ask for initially on dismissal, but once the dog learns that the Spot behavior can manipulate an unavailable handler into play, this behavior is pretty much done.

A few reps of reinforcing the threshold, or foot target with that reward for position concept in mind and we can wait for the offered Sit or Down.

Be Careful with Your Cookie Process

It is that we, as handlers, have a clear understanding of what behavior is going to earn a cookie on each repetition and that we observe proper cookie process rules. The target behavior makes the cookie process happen… no flinching or preparing while the dog is still en route to the correct behavior or you will have a hard time upping the ante.

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Change of Venue

Generalization Takes Experience

Odds are you have been working in the same area or two with these skills. It’s time to take your multiple dog sessions and move them to a different location. A new location is a distraction in and of itself.

One of the greatest problems with trainers is they believe that when a skill is learned in one environment that it’s going to be generalized to new environments as well. That is not the case. Dogs need to be taught, given refreshers and hints, when they go into a new environment.

Just because the dog sits on the pedestal and does his job in the basement, does not necessarily mean that he will do his job in the kitchen, or the back yard. Dog’s don’t generalize well, and they certainly don’t generalize well if you don’t ask them to do so. So you have to do make that generalization happen for them.

Take Preemptive Action

When you change venues, you’re going to need to bump up the rate of reinforcement and drop our criteria to ensure success. We often go back through the learning process itself, try to retrigger the steps real quick. Good trainers are not afraid to go back a step, great trainers are not afraid to go back to foundation.

Expect your dog to fail in every new environment. It empowers you to take appropriate action to ensure that your dog is successful.

What to do?

Move your entire operation to another location. You’ll take your spots and your pedestal and move them to some place else. This means moving from the basement to the living room. Or from the living room to the backyard. Perhaps the backyard to a training studio or a friend’s house.

Let us know how you are doing with this skill in comments below.

Good luck!

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Adding an Action Distraction

Adding an Action Distraction

Well, here we go, getting started on what we all want – dogs that will wait while another dog works.

Up until now, you’ve been providing a relatively low level distraction – a distraction dog working with the handler on fairly lame and low intensity activities.

You’re going to start to add some action by adding some more intense play with the Distraction Dog.

At this point in time it is important to note that you are still working the dogs that are on their spots and/or pedestals and the distraction dog is still getting shined on and is not really being worked. The object here is to get your dogs some experience staying while another dog is playing/working.

Choose an Appropriate Toy

You need to ensure that you keep the distraction from the active distraction dog under the Working Dog’s threshold. If your Working Dog thinks a Frisbee is the most awesome thing on the planet, then you probably shouldn’t play with a Frisbee with the Distraction Dog. If your dog is a Ball Junkie, we don’t want to break out a tennis ball… yet.

A bone perhaps? A rope toy? Something that will be challenging, but not be too challenging, for your Working Dogs to resist.

Short Sessions

You want to keep your sessions very short. 30 seconds to a minute ought to be fine at first. Again, the key here is success. You are not testing the Working Dog’s ability to stay, you are teaching the Working Dog to stay. Because you know that the Working Dog will fail in a new situation or environment, you’re going to prove to that Working Dog that staying on task is going to pay off.

Switch Dogs

After your 30 second session you’ll want to switch dogs. Get the distraction dog on the Spot and stable, then release the Working Dog. As you release the previous Working Dog, it’s probably a good idea to pay the dog that was just placed on the spot.


Once you get several successful reps of this with each dog you can start to up the ante by increasing the amount of time the Working Dog(s) are going to be staying on their spot. Again, what’s most important is that the Working Dogs are successful and that means that you are releasing them from their Spots and/or Pedestals early and often.

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Paying the Release

Paying the Release as we have been during this class is often a contentious issue for dog trainers.

As far as we’re concerned here at Pawsitive Vybe, “Duration is defined by the Release.” Duration has both a beginning and an end, that’s what the word means. If you don’t have control over the Release, you don’t have duration, it’s as simple as that.

I think the issue of whether or not to pay comes up based upon what the handler perceive the duration behavior to be. Is it a chore, duty or obligation? Or is it an fun, play, and opportunity?

Obligation or Opportunity?

If it is an obligation or duty, the handler is reluctant to reinforce the release because they don’t want too much value placed upon the release, as it is already self reinforcing and adding cookies could make the dog not want to stay. The allure of freedom is already too much of a distraction.

If Staying is fun and an opportunity to earn reinforcement, then the release can actually be a bit demotivating. The dog gets released and the reinforcement ends. They have actually lost the opportunity to work. So what does the dog who believes the duration behavior is an opportunity do after the release? They run right back over and offer the duration behavior again.

When your dog believes that duration behaviors are an opportunity, they don’t like to get up. If they don’t Release on cue, they do not understand duration. Paying the Release is important to help deliver the duration concept to your dog.

It’s a different mindset as a trainer and requires reframing the idea of Duration from Obligation to Opportunity. Once we have that viewpoint, that duration behaviors are an opportunity, paying the Release seems natural.

It’s a Cued Behavior

When the Release is cued and paid, it becomes a trick in and of itself. Do it on cue and get a cookie. Do it without the cue and get nothing. You can’t be Released if you’re not doing the duration behavior. Probably best to do it.

Rewarding with Interaction

Paying the Release forces interaction with the handler. The dog will learn to look to the handler for reinforcement after a release. You want your dog to want to interact with you after the Release, not the environment. You can pay the dog with a tossed cookie if you want them to go somewhere else or you can reinforce on us with a cookie. Remember that “a cookie” is any resource the dog finds valuable and that regardless of where we reward the dog, the dog is being conditioned to interact with the handler after the Release through marking and reinforcement.

Leveraging the Release

The thing is… the Release is going to happen regardless of whether or not you pay it. Might as well reinforce it and leverage it towards strengthening your duration behavior.

Go Variable

Once the dogs understand and believe in the Release we can start to variably reinforce it. We can also Reward with Action if we’d like…

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Sample Session

Here is the Sample Session from the Weekly Lesson Page. This is a very simple session with experienced dogs. Apryl used this as a little warm-up for the experienced dogs so they’d know what their job was and not be silly on camera for the rest of the session. It’s a good practical example of Working with Multiple Dogs.

Set the Working Dogs

I mentioned that these dogs on Spots and Pedestals were experienced. They have been through this drill countless times. Apryl probably could have just set the dogs up on the Pedestal and the Spot without reinforcing them, but adding some rapid fire reinforcement at the beginning of the session does help them remember that the Spot or Pedestal is a good place to be. Keep in mind that these dogs do hour long downstays at times and are quite accomplished at this skill, so giving them 5 cookies per minute (CPM) is some pretty rapid reinforcement.

It worked. The dogs were totally cool holding their position the whole session.

If we were working dogs that were less experienced, the Rate of Reinforcement for the Working Dogs would have been much higher.

Energy Level

One thing that is very important for successfully managing multiple dogs is energy level. The energy level of the game needs to be low and even. Slow, methodical, plodding… etc. Apryl’s energy level here is quite low, she’s rather flat in her emotional expression and is methodical in her movements. It’s very easy to lose the handle on multiple dogs if the energy level of the game fluctuates too much. High intensity excitement is too high a distraction and with multiple dogs, things can go south quite quickly.

As our dogs get more accustomed to taking turns and staying on task, then we can start to add some fluctuating energy levels and higher intensity distractions.


Recalling the Distraction Dog is pretty cool. Our working dog(s) is on task as we Recall the Distraction Dog. The Working Dog(s) hold position while one of the Pack is Released and moves towards the handler. Great experience for the Working Dog! And it’s Super easy.

Try This:

Grab 2 dogs.

Choose the dog with the best Spot or Pedestal behavior to be your Working Dog and the dog with the weaker duration skills can be the Distraction.

Get the Working Dog on the Spot and Set their Position. Recall the Distraction Dog.

As the Distraction Dog is recalling, Pay the Working Dog.

Dismiss Distraction Dog and Repeat.

Max time – 2 minutes

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The Working Dog and the Distraction Dog

We have the Working Dog, the dog holding the duration behavior and a Distraction Dog(s) that is doing stuff.

Distraction Dog

The Distraction Dog, the dog not working on the Spot behavior at present, will be “worked” by the handler. Consider this work to be ‘shining the Distraction Dog on’ giving them lip service or limited attention during our interaction. Essentially we’re going to allow ourselves to be sloppy and inattentive here with the Distraction Dog in order to focus on the task at hand, which is adding value to the Spot for the Working Dog.

Working Dog

The Working Dog is the dog that is performing the Spot Behavior. All efforts should be made to keep the Working Dog in position. We should expect our dog to fail in new environments and situations and be proactive in helping them succeed. Which means increasing the rate of reinforcement to a level that is guaranteed to keep the Working Dog in position. It also means that we’ll need to release early and often.

Remember that we are not working duration unless the Working Dog is Released. Release defines Duration

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Spot Training – Generalizing Handler Position and Approach

In this Video, Apryl Lea and Pan work on a Pedestal. The intent of the session was to Manufacture the Approach and Generalize the Handler position.

This session has nothing to do with the Down. All we want is a stable position on the pedestal which will happen because of the high rate of reinforcement on the table. This is about Action. It is simply about getting a lot of value on the Pedestal and generalizing the approach and the spatial relationship to the handler.

Apryl worked from all areas of the room and placed reinforcement for the cued Release throughout the room as well. Enabling her to get Pan to work from, the Right, from the Left, From near to far and far to near. She also worked from a seated position at a distance.

Pan really likes that pedestal, doesn’t she. It’s going to be really easy to send her.

Duration coming right up…

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Generalize the Spot Behavior

“Dog’s don’t generalize well,” is a phrase that many dog trainers know and understand.

While it is true that dogs do not generalize as well as humans, generalization may be enhanced through training. And the dog surely won’t be able to generalize unless they practice.

Generalizing the spot behavior is critical to being able to use the skill successfully in our daily interactions. We need to be able to put our dogs in many different spots, as it is not practical to always have ‘your’ Spot with us. Having a well generalized Spot will enable us to place our dogs on any kind of rug, on tables, chairs, stools and other pedastals, it also can be generalized out to include thresholds and doorframes.

[supertagline]Dogs surely don’t generalize well if they are not asked to…[/supertagline]

Handler Position

Generalizing the handler’s Position is extremely important.

The dog should not be basing the performance of the spot behavior upon the position of the handler. The handler’s position, movement, location etc should have no bearing on the Dog’s performance of the spot behavior. Early and subtle generalization of behavior will enable the dog to focus in on the Spot behavior and to understand the Root Concepts on which it is based.

We absolutely must remember that maintaining the Duration Behavior is the Handler’s Responsibility. Any of these generalization techniques should be performed with the intent to keep the dog on the Spot. We are not testing the dog. We are teaching the dog to stay regardless of our position or movement. Because we are teaching them to stay, we are not going to push too hard and make them break their stay.

  • Rock It
    Rock back, Rock Forward, and pay.
  • Side to Side
    Slide from side to side similar to Rock It.
  • Step Over
  • Stepping Over the dog requires a huge leap of faith. It is often better if we simply give the dog a cookie as a distraction as we step over.
    We can just mark the moment we’re about to step and put the cookie in the dog’s mouth as we’re over top of them. A few reps of this and the dog will happily stay in position as we step over them.
  • Random Movements
    Flailing arms, jumping up and down, spinning around, dropping to the floor – random, fast moving, surprising movements can really help seal the deal on the understanding that,”I stay here, regardless of what’s going on.”
  • Walk Around
    This should be considered a proofing exercise, and should only be worked if the handler is willing to bet $100 that the dog will perform the skill perfectly. That’s a lot of cheddar… better be sure it will work before you take the chance.

Generalizing the Spot

We need to move the Spot around in our training areas. We’ll work the spot in the kitchen, the back yard, the park, our in-laws house, the ballgame, etc. The more places the better.

We’ll also need to work on some other Spots, a towel, a table, a dropped leash, the corner of the carpet. The sky’s the limit. By this time your dog has the concpetual understanding of the spot behavior and will be able to leverage the understanding of the root concepts towards many Spot-like situations.

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Generalizing the Pedestal Behavior

Generalizing the Pedestal with a Circuit

Generalize the Pedestal with a Circuit

We do a lot of exercise ball work here at PVybe HQ with dogs that are not well versed in our foundation or very confident with the Pedestal Skill. What we do is immediately generalize the object from easy to hard.

  1. Table - up-pup… shovel cookies… off… cookie.
  2. A Small Stool: up-pup… shovel cookies… off… cookie.
  3. A Chair: up-pup… shovel cookies… off… cookie.
  4. A tall stool: up-pup… shovel cookies… off… cookie.
  5. A weird stool: up-pup… shovel cookies… off… cookie.
  6. Then we go to the ball: up-pup… shovel cookies… off… cookie.

This circuit happens in under 2 minutes. If the dog doesn’t get on the ball, we repeat the Circuit.

This circuit train with easier Pedestals creates a wider understanding of the skill and also creates a wave of success that our dogs can ride to overcome the great challenge of the ball.

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Introduction to the Pedestal Behavior

What is a Pedestal?

Pedestal is a raised spot, essentially a table.

We use all kinds of things as Pedestals – exercise balls, stools, plastic tubs, crates, chairs, stools, boulders, stumps, picnic tables, benches… you name it and if our dog can hop up and stay on there, we’ll use it.

Our favorite Pedestal is an old end table with some carpet on top, as you see in the video above.

The more objects we can generalize this skill to the more readily our dogs will take to different Pedestals. Here’s an example for those of you who play disc with your dogs… A footstall here at Pawsitive Vybe (dog hops up and stays on feet) takes place in just a few moments. We got Prima, one of our Red Dogs, to hop up on my feet and stand on her hind legs in less than 30 seconds. Not bad considering it often takes people months to get that skill…

Why Use a Pedestal?

We like to use Pedestals here at PVybe HQ because it is a very Black and White behavior. The dog is either on it, or not on it, plain and simple. A Spot, while definitely more concrete than simply putting a dog in a Sit or Down, is not nearly as concrete as the Pedestal.

A Pedestal also requires work to get up on, which means that any breaking of the duration behavior will mean no cookies and more work. Not a good combination for operant dogs.

Also, a Pedestal allows the handler to notice, even out of the corner of the eye (perhaps even hear) the dog getting out of position which is valuable for delivering clear consequence to a dog that is not holding position while the handler is engaged with another dog.


The video above lays it out, pretty much, and it’s essentially the same skill as a spot.

We can free shape it (wait for the dog to offer the skill on their own) or we can be a bit more direct and reward for position as illustrated in the video.

It’s probably not a good idea to use a Table cue, for those of you involved in Agility. We’d hate to pollute that perfect performance with new meaning.


Open Invitation – It’s Yours

When you are rewarding for position, don’t hold the cookie in your fingertips like a lure. Hold the cookie in the palm of your hand or in a fashion that makes it obvious that the dog should take it.

Lots of times when we reward for position onto an object or into a different situation with a cookie that looks like a lure, we wind up triggering some apprehension and the dog might not go after the cookie.

If the hand is open, it’s an open invitation. You’ve earned it, all you have to do is come and get it.

Shaping the Up-Pup

We use a generic cue for getting on top of things, it’s called up-pup. Because we generalize the heck out of this skill and use many objects as Pedestals, we invariably wind up with objects that our dog is not comfy with jumping on top of.

When our dog stands up and puts the front paws on the object we’re wanting them atop of, initially we may reduce our criteria and mark and reinforce this lower expression of the behavior with shoveling cookies then calling the off, just as we would a full 4 feet on.

We get a couple reps of this and then up the ante, using the reward for position concept – stand up and put your front feet on the pedestal – yes! – then place the cookie in an open palm high enough and far enough onto the object so the dog must get 4 feet on if they want the cookie they earned.

If we are consistent in our application of this shaping concept, as soon as the sequence starts – balk at the 4 feet on the Pedestal, reinforce for 2 feet, up the ante – the understanding of the pedestal behavior is triggered.

It doesn’t take long at all for the dog to generalize this skill and to become confident in performing it.

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Root Concepts of the Spot Behavior

Behaviors can be broken down into many root concepts. We can mark and reinforce any or all of these in order to draw attention to them so we can use them in the future.

Spot training offers us several active root concepts that we can teach our dogs that will come in handy in other situations:

  • Targeting
  • Threshold
  • Foot Target
  • On
  • Off
  • Duration Behavior (sit or down)


Understanding that the space on one side of the threshold is different than the space on the other is an important part of understanding the environment. Dogs surely know all about this concept but they probably don’t know that we know about it, or that we, as a team, should be concerned with it.

Understanding that a threshold is something to be conscious of allows for all kinds of team actions to be better understood. The threshold in the Spot or Pedestal behaviors are the edges of the spot or pedestal. Marking when the dog crosses this threshold will draw attention to it and allow you to reward for position.

Having a clear and well generalized understanding of the threshold of a spot makes it much easier for the dog to generalize spots.

Foot Target

You can mark the moment a foot hits the spot and reinforce to get more feet on or to maintain the foot target. Dropping cookies on the mat is great for this as is paying above the center of the spot. Paying high (above the dog’s head) on a spot will eventually lead to a sit. Paying in the center of the spot above the dog’s head will lead to a sit in the center of the spot. See Reward Placement .

1 Foot

You can reinforce getting a foot on the Spot, it’s the first step after all. But you must be careful to not get stuck on that first step.

You will mark this initially, or when we need to raise or rate of reinforcement when a session’s flow starts to suffer, but outside of those situations you’ll need to up the ante and start reinforcing behaviors that more closely resemble the finished product. More feet on…

2 Feet

Two feet on the target is a good step towards the completed behavior, but again, you need to move forward quickly once the behavior is happening frequently.
You can (and probably should) use Reward placement to take this from 2 feet to 4 feet.

4 Feet

Eventually you need to raise the criteria to putting all 4 feet on the spot. This will require waiting and that the handler has added enough value to the 4 feet on the spot for the dog to have good reason to put those 4 feet on there. Once 4 feet are on, it’s time to shovel until the release.


Once you have the dog reliably holding the Spot you can then start to work on our chosen duration behavior.

In the case of a Sit, holding/presenting reinforcement above the dogs head should promote a Sit.
Also, if the team has a strong history of unsolicited eye contact, a sit is often guaranteed with a lack of action and/or a mark on the first piece of eye contact.

Another thing that you can do is to mark and withold reinforcement. This often yields a Sit.
Once Sit happens you pump your dog full of cookies, give your release cue, and pay the dog somewhere off the Spot.


If you want a Down on the Spot, which is really what you’re looking for, you’ll move from the sit to down by paying the dog very low – down between the dog’s front feet and chest. Withold the cookie until the dog either lies down or starts to lie down.

This reward placement will promote a down because it’s hard to eat a cookie there while sitting. The elbows have to bend to get at the cookie. Once the elbows bend it’s an uncomfortable position. Give it a few seconds and the down pretty much happens. You can shape the Down a bit my marking the initial bending of the elbows for the down and upping the ante.

If the butt comes off the floor at any time, remove the reinforcement and start again.

Working a bunch of the Down behavior, making it a ‘hot’ behavior will increase the likelihood of the dog offering that behavior.

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2 Keys to Teaching a Dog to Stay


It is important to understand that duration behaviors, have 2 components. Action then Duration.

Many clicker trainers have problems with duration because they are primarily focused on marking and reinforcing action. After the Action component has been performed there is really nothing left to mark. All that’s left to do is to reinforce and add value to the position. So after the marking of the Action there will be no additional marking as we pay the dog for duration.

If the handler does any marking of behavior during a Duration skill, it should be focused on good decisions made by the dog – starting to but deciding not to get up, for instance, unsolicited eye contact, perhaps, shifting to a more relaxed position, etc.

Excessive marking of behavior during duration behavior training tends to teach the dog that action makes things happen. This leads to fidgeting, superstitious behavior and general trouble in getting calm duration.

Seemingly simple behaviors can be broken down into many root concepts. We can mark and reinforce any or all of these root concepts so we can shape the behavior and/or to draw attention to them for use in the future. Spot training offers us several active root concepts that we can teach our dogs that will come in handy in other situations:

  • Targeting
    Acknowledgement of, interest in and/or Approach to the Spot.
  • Threshold
    The physical boundaries that define the spot.
  • Foot Target
    Foot or feet on the spot. 
  • Duration Behavior
    Stand, Sit or Down
  • Off
    Release from the Spot

All of these actions can be isolated and worked. Problems that we have with this behavior can be resolved by focusing on one or more of these root concepts.


Duration is a function of math.

You need to pay our dog at a rate of reinforcement that is guaranteed to keep the dog in position that the duration behavior requires. It is your responsibility as a handler to ensure that the dog maintains position.

In the spot training exercise, you’ll pay at a blistering rate of 1 reward per second initially in order to add value and maintain position. You’ll start to reduce the rate of reinforcement as the dog starts to desire to perform the skill.

[supertagline]Positive Markers mean something. You don’t have to mark to give a cookie.[/supertagline]

The Release Defines Duration

Duration, as defined is the time between the beginning and the end. Many times, especially when working multiple dogs, the dog is never released from the duration behavior or frequently releases himself while the handler is distracted.

If you are not releasing our dogs from a behavior you are not working duration. It’s as simple as that. You’re simply adding or reducing value on the duration behavior depending on what happens after the dog breaks position.

Desire before Duration

The idea here is to create desire to perform a behavior before we go and ask for duration. We then use that desire to perform the behavior to our advantage by making the dog believe that performing the behavior is an opportunity.

“What? I get to do Spot now? Sweet!”

Compare and Contrast

Once the dog has a strong desire to perform a given behavior we are then able to compare and contrast the performance of that behavior with the non-performance of the behavior.

This is where many trainers blow it. We are so concerned with our dogs getting the behavior right – NOW! – that we fail to let them learn for themselves that doing this behavior is totally worth it.

When we cue a behavior that is not yet strong and nothing happens, that is the lesson.

The dog is able to compare and contrast the rapid fire reinforcement – 15-30 rewards per minute for correct performance with zip, nada, nothing for however long they are derelict in performing the behavior.

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Spot Training in 3 Steps

Step 1 – Shape Interest
Mark and reinforce (rewarding for position) interest or approach to the spot

Step 2 – Add Value
Shovel food on the spot – standing, sitting, and/or down

Step 3 – Release
Give your release cue and toss cookie to help dog off.

When teaching any behavior the first step is getting it to happen. The second step is to add as much value as possible to the behavior to ensure that it happens again. For learning and adding value we should aim for 15-30+ rewards per minute. That’s a cookie every 2-4 seconds, kind of nuts right? You want to keep it there for a while too. Make sure the dog has a lot of desire to do that behavior.

That way when you stop working behavior and wait a few moments, you provide contrast between how awesome it is when they are doing Spot and how lame it is when they are not doing Spot. The Spot, or any other behavior, can become an opportunity here as well because the Spot behavior leads to a boatload of cookies.

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Reward Placement for Spot Training

Mark for behavior, Reward for Position!

Reward placement is key in Spot training. The reward must be delivered so that the dog can maintain position on the spot. While that may seem entirely logical and clear, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to screw up. Fumble a cookie and the dog gets off the spot. Move your hand in the wrong direction and the dog will follow.

Reward placement can be used to your advantage though, and here’s how you can do that:

Dropping Cookies

You can mark the crossing of the threshold and reinforce with a cookie dropped on the Spot. This will get the dog further onto the spot. You can mark each foot fall on the spot as the dog gets on and toss cookies so the dog has to get further onto the spot to eat them.

Tossing cookies is a great way to add value to the spot itself and to the action aspect of spot training.

Giving Cookies

You can and should also pay the dog from your hand as well. This will give you the opportunity to be very precise, and to control where the dog puts his head. Giving cookies from your hand also forces you to move around a bit, giving you the opportunity to generalize your position and movment, an important aspect of the skill.

When you want a Sit, mark eye contact and place the reward above the dog’s head, but don’t open up your hand until the butt hits the floor. Once that butt hits the floor, feed. When you want a Down, you can place the reward on the floor between the dogs feet with your hand closed then open it and allow the dog to eat it once their elbows are bending or on the floor.

Getting Off & Tossing Cookies

When you want the dog off, just give the off cue and toss a cookie. This will give the dog ample reason to get off the spot and set up another threshold learning opportunity. Where you throw the cookie will set up the next angle of approach, so pay attention to that and toss wisely.

You can toss cookies to your dog during the duration aspect of the Spot behavior, although you have to do a good job with placement.

Cultivating a hip flop from a down can be done by tossing your cookies into the area between your dog’s hip and their belly as they’re laying down. They will look down to find the cookie under their belly and will flop their hip.

You can also get a pretty solid down with the dog by tossing cookies into the area between your dog’s legs as they’re laying down. You’re aiming for the armpit. Set a few cookies into the armpit area and your dog will rock back and flop their hip.

Be really careful when you’re tossing cookies. Don’t make too many mistakes or duration will be a problem.

Dog Goes Where Reward Happens

Just remember that your dog is going to go where the reward happens. They will put their face where you put the cookie.

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